What Europe needs to know about the Dutch tax haven

“As of this January 1, the Netherlands holds the Presidency of the European Union. This is a good occasion to put the spotlight on a well-kept Dutch secret: The Netherlands is one of the largest tax havens in Europe, indeed the world.

While minister of finance Jeroen Dijsselbloem—better known as head of the Euro Group—routinely denounces Greece’s ‘unwillingness’ to reform its tax system, the Canadian mining company Gold Eldorado avoids paying taxes in Greece via his own country. While the Netherlands lambasted Cypriot banks in 2013 for laundering (Russian) money, oligarchs were invited in 2013 and 2014 to the Dutch embassy in Ukraine for a seminar by private Dutch law firms on how to avoid taxes via the Netherlands. Recently the European Commission decided that special Dutch tax breaks for Starbucks are illegal under European state aid rules. […]

To be clear, the Netherlands is a textbook example of a tax haven. There are 12,000 mailbox companies channelling €4bn (a world record). Eighty of the 100 largest companies worldwide have a Dutch mailbox company; 48 percent of Fortune 500 companies have a shell company in the Netherlands. Nineteen of the twenty largest listed Portuguese firms dodge taxes via the Netherlands. Greece loses millions every year via tax dodging through the Netherlands.

In 2009 US President Obama called the Netherlands (as well as Ireland) a tax haven. The IMF agrees, stating that the Netherlands has ‘special legislation that provides advantages to multinational corporations using these countries as pass-throughs’. That is what Europe needs to know next time a Dutch minister pleads for decimating Greek pensions or increasing Portuguese VAT.



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